A couple years and several behind-the-scenes shake-ups later, the Weeknd’s new HBO show, The Idol, continues to generate controversy — and not generate a firm release date. Last year, HBO released a new teaser trailer, and it was everything that we more or less expected. The Idol, according to a teaser, comes “from the gutters of Hollywood” and is created by Abel Tesfaye (the Weeknd) and Euphoria’s Sam Levinson. Originally, The Girlfriend Experience’s Amy Seimetz was signed on to direct, but she left the show after 80 percent of it was in the can. Then Levinson, fresh off a polarizing Euphoria season two, came in and allegedly reshot the whole dang thing.
A report from Rolling Stone alleges that The Idol changed dramatically when Levinson became the guiding hand. “It was a show about a woman who was finding herself sexually,” said one anonymous crew member, “turned into a show about a man who gets to abuse this woman and she loves it.”
Who stars in The Idol?
In addition to Tesfaye and Lily-Rose Depp, the series stars a huge cast of singers and actors, including Troye Sivan, Blackpink’s Jennie Ruby Jane, Dan Levy, Suzanna Son, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Hari Nef, and Nico Hiraga. Anne Heche, who died recently in a car crash, is not listed in the credits in the trailer despite being previously announced to star. Per the Rolling Stone article, much of the cast brought on during the Seimetz administration was not brought back under Levinson. Levinson also added people like Rachel Sennott and Hank Azaria.
What is The Idol about?
The show follows Depp as a pop star lured into a cult led by Tesfaye’s character and features all the Levinson trademarks: beautiful young people, drugs, mood lighting. “Los Angeles is where all the monsters of the world come to gather,” Tesfaye tells Depp in a teaser that shows him doing drugs and having sex. “Trust no one.”
The Rolling Stone article claims the show may be about nothing at all, as a chaotic shooting schedule and endless rewrites have completely obliterated any sense of structure. “It’s almost such an extreme that it’s like, there is no message,” one Idol crew member said. “There is no point. They’re just trying to see how much of a reaction they can get.” The report says the show has descended into a “rape fantasy” full of nudity and sexually explicit scenes. “It went from satire to the thing it was satirizing,” a member of the production team said.
Has The Idol responded to the Rolling Stone story?
The Weeknd tweeted a response, sharing an almost-minute-long clip of a scene between Tesfaye, Depp, and Levy. In the clip, Tesfaye’s character calls Rolling Stone “a little irrelevant.”
Depp also responded with a statement: “Sam is, for so many reasons, the best director I have ever worked with. Never have I felt more supported or respected in a creative space, my input and opinions more valued. Working with Sam is a true collaboration in every way — it matters to him, more than anything, not only what his actors think about the work, but how we feel performing it.” Depp said Levinson “hires people whose work he esteems and has always created an environment in which I felt seen, heard and appreciated.”
When is The Idol coming out?
HBO says The Idol will premiere sometime in 2023.
This post has been updated throughout.